Children’s services at Surrey County Council are helping children “make progress in their transitions to becoming independent young adults” and “young people who are Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers (UAS) receive specialist and skilled support”, according to a letter published by Ofsted following a monitoring visit in September.
The monitoring visit looked at the provision of information for young people on their entitlements and health histories, the workloads of personal advisers (PAs) in the leaving care teams and the experiences and progress of young people aged 18 to 25 years of age who have left care.
Ofsted noted that “PAs understand the profiles and needs of young people well and are in touch with nearly all care leavers” and “they work hard to maintain contact and trusting relationships”, which “enables strong progress in many important areas of their young adult lives.” This skilled and sensitive work is “highly valued by the young people that inspectors spoke to during the visit” and inspectors found that “managers have a strong understanding of the quality of practice provided to young people through rigorous quality assurance work.”
The inspectors noted that a small number of young people have not been well supported because of frequent changes in their allocated PA. This comes at a time when the service is actively recruiting permanent staff as a result of high levels of sickness and a national workforce shortage. Ofsted noted “the workloads of PAs are manageable”, although “Senior managers fully accept that some care leaver teams have been adversely affected by significant absence and turnover of PAs, resulting in poorer support for a small number of young people. They are working hard to stabilise these teams and some progress is evident.”
In the published letter from Ofsted, inspectors noted that “Young people who arrived in the UK as UAS are very well supported by PAs who work in two specialist teams” and “young people’s urgent practical needs are met quickly”. They went on to note that the cumulative trauma and abuse many young people experience in their countries of origin, and during their journeys to the UK, are “understood and skilfully addressed” and “Senior leaders are keen to provide more targeted help and support that may encourage more young people to remain in areas of Surrey with larger multicultural communities”.
Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Children & Families said: “This latest publication from Ofsted illustrates the specialist care and support Surrey’s children’s services provide for care leavers and unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people. There is always more to do, and we are actively recruiting more permanent employees, but I am encouraged that this visit from Ofsted illustrates the positive improvement journey across our services for our children, young people and families.”
Ofsted found that young people’s awareness of the local authority’s offer for care leavers and their entitlements is mixed, but “when they are involved with an active and influential user voice and participation group, their knowledge was highly informed”. Inspectors found that “a small number of young people are frustrated that some PAs, particularly when they were inexperienced, did not understand their entitlements” but noted that young people are provided with extensive information.
Ofsted found that young people have information on their health histories, are registered with their local GPs and are provided with a range of information on their entitlements and the local offer for care leavers; “their physical, emotional and mental health needs are largely understood well, and promoted”, although “young people living outside the local authority, particularly UAS, wait much longer to receive support if they struggle with poor mental health.”
During the visit, inspectors identified that the majority of young people are in suitable education, employment and training, however, “nearly a third of young people are not, and this rate of non-engagement has not improved since the last inspection.” The children’s service’s virtual school provides helpful dedicated education and employment advice for care leavers and UAS young people and an extensive range of mentoring and other well-targeted initiatives, which helps many young people make progress. Ofsted noted that “Senior managers recognise that they need to do more work within the county council and with local employers to provide more opportunities for young people to enter employment, apprenticeships and training in the local economy.”
Since being judged as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in May 2018, Surrey’s children’s services have undertaken rapid and continued action to deliver an ambitious improvement programme. The service is committed to tackling areas for development highlighted by Ofsted and subsequent monitoring visits since 2018 have illustrated the positive improvement journey across services for children, young people and families, which is particularly encouraging given the additional challenges of the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.